It’s not easy being a midsize sedan, what with all the competition. Designed specifically for the U.S. market, the Volkswagen Passat adds a European option to the segment at a surprisingly affordable price. For 2016, the German sedan bears a new look and even more bang for the buck.
Volkswagen’s design DNA could be called understated, so one shouldn’t expect the new Passat to be remarkably different from the outgoing model. Designers made subtle changes on the outside to make it appear more streamlined.
At the launch in Vermont, premium touches like a new dashboard and center console, along with integrated two-tone decor panels, and a new frameless rearview mirror elevated my first impression of the interior. Volkswagen also gave journalists a rare opportunity to drive the base or S model, offering a well-rounded view of the lineup.
Built in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the 2016 Passat can be powered by either of two engines—the 1.8-liter TSI turbocharged four-cylinder or a 3.6-liter VR6. Volkswagen has suspended the sale of diesels for now.
Made in Silao, Mexico, the turbocharged and direct-injection four-cylinder engine produces 170 horsepower and 184 lb.–ft. of torque using regular gasoline. Matched to the six-speed automatic, the Passat should achieve an estimated fuel economy of 25 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 38 mpg on the highway. I achieved 36.8 average mpg at the launch.
The 3.6-liter VR6 produces 280 horsepower and 258 lb.–ft. of torque with premium fuel. It should earn an EPA-estimated highway mileage of 28 mpg with the six-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission. Steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters add to its sporty performance and handling.
New technology, like the available Easy Open trunk also, adds value and keeps the Passat on trend. Easy Open Truck allows the driver, within three feet of the trunk, to use his feet to activate a sensor near the rear of the vehicle, opening the trunk hands-free.
Volkswagen’s signature infotainment system, MIB II, comes standard with a five- or 6.3-inch touchscreens and most models include a display capacitive touch sensor that enables gesture controls like swiping and pinch zooming. Internet connections are available via Car-Net features that include App-Connect technology that can be integrated with three major Smartphone platforms— Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink.
While advanced safety technology, like a blind spot monitor, is unavailable on the base model, it is standard on the SE w/Technology models and up. All Passat’s do come equipped with a rearview camera and Volkswagen’s Automatic Post-Collision Braking System, first launched on the 2015 Golf. As the name implies, it applies the brakes after a primary collision helping to reduce residual kinetic energy and, in turn, reduce the chance of additional damage.
Standard creature comforts include dual- zone climate control, a steering wheel with audio and phone control, a CD player, and a 60/40-split rear seat for added cargo space. The large trunk can accommodate 15.9 cubic feet of luggage.
Available in multiple trim levels, starting prices range from $23,260 (with destination fees) for the S, to $35,090 for the SEL Premium. New features on the base model, however, account for a value of $1,315. The best buy, however, may be the SE w/Technology, starting at $29,230, because of standard features like the afore mentioned blind spot monitor, Rear Traffic Alert with braking, and keyless entry with push-button start.